Justice League (USA / 12A / 120 mins) 

Directed by Zack Snyder. Starring Ben Affleck, Gal Gadot, Jason Momoa, Ezra Miller, Ray Fisher, Jeremy Irons, Amy Adams, Ciaran Hinds.

The Plot: The world is mourning the death of Superman. Whereas he once united the peoples of the Earth, now there is disunity and discord. A perfect time then for all-powerful super-villain Steppenwolf (Ciaran Hinds) to come to Earth. He’s searching for three mystical boxes that have the power to create or destroy, depending on their use. He’s more interested in the latter of course. The only people standing in his way are Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck) and Diana Prince (Gal Gadot), but they aren’t enough to fight Steppenwolf. They seek out and assemble a team with special abilities – the Atlantean Aquaman (Jason Momoa), speedy wisecracker The Flash (Ezra Miller) and powerful man/machine Cyborg (Ray Fisher). Together they might just stand a chance to save the Earth once more…

 

The Verdict: Batman v Superman: Dawn Of Justice was not so much a reboot / face-off between the two biggest DC superheroes, but a super-sized set-up for Justice League – DC’s long-gestating answer to Marvel’s Avengers. Although it had its moments, Batman v Superman: Dawn Of Justice had some justly levelled criticisms laid at its feet. Justice League thankfully fixes some of those faults, while creating faults of its own that threaten the structure of the film.

First, the good stuff. Returning director Zack Snyder (with uncredited help from Joss Whedon) has shifted the confusing focus of the earlier film more into sharper view this time, making Batman and Wonder Woman the dynamic duo that drive the heroics. There’s a hint of romantic frisson between them which works well. Affleck has settled into the role more confidently and comfortably, making this Batman his own. Gadot already proved her mettle during the summer with her superb solo outing and she’s a force to be reckoned with here. Wonder Woman 2 can’t come soon enough. Who would have thought that brooding loner Bruce Wayne could play so well with others?

Now, the not so good stuff… As likeable as the new recruits are (especially The Flash), there’s an impression that they’re not only second-tier superheroes, but that they’re playing second fiddle to everyone else. Sure, they each get their own moment to shine and save the day, but their backstories are vague at best. Despite competent performances from the actors, they just don’t grab your attention in the same way. With Snyder having to step away from the film due to a personal tragedy earlier this year, Joss Whedon seems to have punched-up the script and added some of the humour from his Avengers Assemble. Let’s face it – DC’s superheroes can be po-faced and need to lighten up a bit more. The humour sort of works, but doesn’t quite gel with this world yet.

Big bad Steppenwolf is a bum note. With rubbery, unconvincing CGI and an inability to mouth dialogue convincingly, he’s a forgettable rent-a-villain. He seems to have been ported in from a videogame end-of-level boss. He’s all about the doomsday apocalypse, but we didn’t just have a Doomsday in the previous film anyway? On a technical level, the visual effects don’t seem up to scratch, with some odd CGI facial enhancements that are all too obvious on a massive IMAX screen. Danny Elfman’s rousing score does work though, including some musical throwbacks to his Tim Burton Batman films.

This reviewer feels conflicted about Justice League. There’s a good bit to like about the film and a good bit to dislike. The good doesn’t quite outweigh the bad though. The film falls midway on the quality scale, so two and a half bats out of five seems fair. If DC are thinking of pursuing further adventures in this cinematic universe, they should stick with what clearly works – solo Batman and Wonder Woman films or the two in their own film together. Now that would be something to relish.

Rating: 2.5 / 5

Review by Gareth O’Connor

JUSTICE LEAGUE
2.5Overall Score
  • emerb

    I thought “Justice League” was a solid and coherent superhero movie and a vast improvement on the disappointing “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” in 2015, while admittedly not quite matching the joy and spectacle of “Wonder Woman”. The director, once again, is Zack Snyder, although he had to step away from it early following a family tragedy so the job was completed by co-writer Joss Wheden. He was a good replacement choice but to me a rather ironic one, given that his “Avengers” movies with Marvel are in direct competition with this series. The overall result is an enjoyable, fun and sharp-witted romp brimming with energy and anchored by a range of terrific performances.

    We start where Batman V Superman left off with the world still mourning the death of Superman (Henry Cavill). His mom, Martha Kent (Diane Lane), is dealing with the foreclosure of the family farm and his girlfriend Lois Lane (Amy Adams) is at a low point in her journalistic career. Meanwhile Batman (Ben Afleck) is still doing his bit to fight evil on the planet as a renewed crime wave is striking Gotham. He soon discovers that a giant evil alien Steppenwolf (a CGI villain voiced by Ciaran Hinds) is on the hunt for three all-powerful ancient Mother boxes which have the power to destroy Earth so it is vital that they do not end up in the wrong hands (or something!). His impending invasion means that our heroes must unite so firstly he joins up with Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot). The pair assemble a league of new superheroes, the wide-eyed and lightning-fast The Flash (Ezra Miller), the constantly changing cybernetic
    teenager Cyborg (Ray Fisher) and the gruff tattooed malcontent, Aquaman (Jason Momoa). Pretty standard stuff in terms of plot but the enjoyment is in watch the team work together and play off each other.

    “Justice League” is undoubtedly an engaging and satisfying ensemble adventure movie and marks a solid step forward for the DC Comics Extended Universe. It gets the balance between light humour and dark gloom just right, allowing for many comic moments, especially from Ezra Miller’s the Flash. Clocking in at just under two hours, it doesn’t overstay its welcome and what I liked most was that
    the cast play so well together which is crucial in a film where the introduction and bond of the characters satisfyingly takes up as much time and importance as the action. The characters are distinctive and intriguing and are the focus of our interest throughout. From the vibrant Jason Mamoa as the fully tattooed Aquaman who hangs out in Iceland and just wants to be left alone to Ray Fisher’s half-human, half-technology Cyborg to the genuinely amusing, earnest and enthusiastic Flash by Ezra Miller, the screen is rich with an interesting and lively bunch. “Justice League” also benefits from an amazing line up of great veterans in smaller roles, from Hinds and Irons to Amy Adams as Lois Lane, Joe Morton as Dr. Silas Stone, Billy Crudup as Barry Allen’s dad, Diane Lane as Martha Kent and even J.K. Simmons as Commissioner Gordon. Ben Affleck must have been apprehensive from the outset, knowing that so many hated his debut as Batman. That was tough but he approached the role with caution and it helped that he got to engage in light-hearted flirting with Gal Gadot (who continues to build on her star-making performance in “Wonder Woman” by injecting Diana Prince with power and energy, she was the real stand out for me yet again). Critically, this film should do well. It’s unfortunate that it was released just after the successful “Thor: Ragnarok” and, as such, it may suffer in comparison although it clearly takes a different route. “Justice League” is a worthy addition to the franchise and well worth checking out.